Staff

Charles NewellArtistic Director
Stephen J. AlbertExecutive Director
Ron OJ ParsonResident Artist
Drew DirResident Artist
Cree RankinCasting Director/Artists-in-the-Schools Director
Jennifer GaddaDirector of Production
Joshua KaiserAssistant Production Manager/Company Manager
Ray VlcekTechnical Director
Adina Lee WeinigAssistant Technical Director
Lara MusardProperties Manager
Erica FriesenCostume Shop Manager
Brenton WrightMaster Electrician
Sarah RamosSound and Video Supervisor
Elaine WackerlyDevelopment Specialist
Elizabeth WillsDeputy Director of Development
Rebecca SilvermanAssistant Director of Development for Special Events
Erin KelseyDevelopment Manager
Heidi Thompson SaundersGeneral Manager
Zachary DavisBusiness Manager
Melissa RoseManagement Assistant
Adam ThurmanDirector of Marketing and Communications
Traci BrantAssociate Director of Marketing/Graphic Designer
Matthew SitzAudience Services Manager
Kate VangeloffAssistant Director of Marketing
Diane OsolinBox Office Manager
Heather DumdeiAssistant Box Office Manager/Database Administrator

Charles Newell

Artistic Director

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Charles Newell has been Artistic Director of Court Theatre since 1994, where he has directed over 30 productions. He made his Chicago directorial debut in 1993 with The Triumph of Love, which won the Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Production. Directorial highlights at Court include The Wild Duck, Caroline, Or Change, Titus Andronicus, Arcadia, Man of La Mancha, Uncle Vanya, Raisin, The Glass Menagerie, Travesties, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Hamlet, The Invention of Love, The Little Foxes, Nora, and The Misanthrope.  Charlie has also directed at the Goodman Theatre (Rock ‘n’ Roll), the Guthrie Theater (Resident Director: The History Cycle, Cymbeline), Arena Stage, John Houseman’s The Acting Company (Staff Repertory Director), the California and Alabama Shakespeare Festivals, Juilliard, and New York University. He is the recipient of the 1992 TCG Alan Schneider Director Award. He has served on the Board of Theatre Communications Group, as well as on several panels for the National Endowment for the Arts. Opera directing credits include Marc Blitzstein’s Regina at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Rigoletto at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. Charlie is a multiple Joseph Jefferson Award (Chicago’s highest theatrical honor) nominee and recipient.  Most recently, his production of Caroline, Or Change at Court was the recipient of 4 Joseph Jefferson Awards, including Best Production–Musical and Best Director–Musical.

Stephen J. Albert

Executive Director

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Stephen J. Albert is a founding Partner in Albert Hall & Associates, LLC a leading arts consulting firm. Prior to forming the consulting practice, Albert was recognized as a leading arts manager. He has led some of America’s most prestigious theatres, including the Mark Taper Forum/Center Theatre Group, Alley Theatre, and Hartford Stage Company. Albert began his career with the Mark Taper Forum/Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles where he worked in senior management positions for over a decade, rising to Managing Director. He went on to become Executive Director of Houston’s Alley Theatre where he led a turnaround that stabilized the organization, enabling the Alley to return to national standing and drove a capital campaign that secured the organization’s future. At Hartford Stage, his partnership with Mark Lamos resulted in some of the theatre’s most successful seasons and reinforced Hartford Stage’s position at the forefront of the regional theatre movement. During his tenure in Hartford, Mr. Albert led the initiative to create a 25,000 square foot, state-of-the-art production center, securing the donation of the facility and the funding for its renovation. Albert has served as both President and Vice President of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT) and as a board member of Theatre Communications Group (TCG). He has also written and produced a variety of productions for television, is an ACE award nominee, and has been an associate producer of numerous acclaimed Broadway productions. He is a Senior Fellow with the American Leadership Forum, a graduate of the University of Southern California and holds a MBA from the UCLA Graduate School of Management.

Ron OJ Parson

Resident Artist

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Ron OJ Parson is the cofounder and former Artistic Director of the Onyx Theatre Ensemble of Chicago, and he is currently the Resident Artist at Court Theatre. He has worked with such Chicago theatres as Steppenwolf Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, Northlight Theatre, Black Ensemble Theatre, eta Creative Arts Foundation, Chicago Theatre Company, Eclipse Theatre Company, Congo Square Theatre Company, City Lit Theater Company, Urban Theater Company, Writers’ Theatre, and a variety of arts in education programs. Regionally, Ron has directed at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Portland Stage Company, Virginia Stage Company, Pittsburgh Public Theater, Madison Repertory Theatre, Studio Arena Theatre in Buffalo, Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati, Signature Theatre Company in New York City, Centerstage in Baltimore, and the world premiere of Palmer Park at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada. Most recently, he directed August Wilson’s Two Trains Running at Geva Theatre in Rochester, New York. For Court Theatre, Ron has directed Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson and Fences, The First Breeze of Summer, Wait Until Dark, Flyin’ West, and last year’s season finale Sizwe Banzi is Dead.  Ron also recently directed The Old Settler at Writers’ Theatre. Ron will be remounting his production of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at Actors Theatre of Louisville and Milwaukee Rep this season. He is a proud member of Actors’ Equity Association and SDC, the stage directors’ union.

Drew Dir

Resident Artist

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Drew Dir: Production highlights include Orlando, The Comedy of Errors, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Illusion, Porgy and Bess, An Iliad, and Angels in America. Drew is also the cofounder of Manual Cinema, a Chicago-based shadow puppetry company, whose productions include The Ballad of Lula Del Ray, FJORDS, and Ada/Ava. Drew holds an MA in Text and Performance Studies from King’s College London and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. For the past three years, Drew has taught as a lecturer in Theater and Performance Studies at the University of Chicago, where he co-teaches History and Theory of Drama with Professor David Bevington.

Cree Rankin

Casting Director/Artists-in-the-Schools Director

Cree Rankin has been the Casting Director at Court theatre since July 2002 and has coordinated and overseen the casting of over 50 Court Theatre productions. In 2012 he coordinated casting for Paul Stovall’s IMMEDIATE FAMILY, produced by Martian Entertainment LLC of New York at the Goodman Theatre. He has also coordinated Chicago casting projects for Kansas City Rep and Long Wharf Theatre Company in New Haven CT. From 1991 through 1997, Mr. Rankin was the assistant director of the Touring Theatre at George Street Playhouse (GSP) in New Brunswick where he also served as the Education Director. Mr. Rankin is also the Artists-in-the-Schools (AIS) Director for Court Theatre. The AIS programs works in six partner schools on the south side of Chicago; and employs numerous teaching artists that are accomplished professionally in their respective disciplines. He received his M.F.A. in directing from Tulane University.

Heidi Thompson Saunders

General Manager

Heidi Thompson Saunders joined Court Theatre in 2009 after four years as the Executive Director of Barrel of Monkeys, an arts education theater company that brings creative writing and drama programs to under-served Chicago public schools and park districts. Heidi received her MBA from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business in 2005 with concentrations in general management and marketing. From 2001-2005 she was the Managing Director of the U of C’s University Theater/Theater and Performance Studies and a freelance stage manager. Heidi has been mentored at least twice, first as a participant in USITT’s Stage Management Mentoring Project and more recently through the Illinois Arts Alliance’s Mentor Connection Service. She has served on committees for the Chicago Family Theater Association, the Chicago Comedy Association, The Illinois Theatre Associations and the League of Chicago Theaters and remains on the board of Barrel of Monkeys. In 2008 she was #16 on the Chicago Sun Times list of “50 Chicagoans making a difference.”

Adam Thurman

Director of Marketing and Communications

Adam Thurman was the Executive Director of the Congo Square Theatre Company before joining Court Theatre in 2008. Mr. Thurman is the author of the E-book, The Unfair Guide to Building a Powerful Board and the article Three Tips for Making More Money from Your Art. He is a former Board Member of the League of Chicago Theatres, has served on the Illinois Arts Council's Advisory Panel, and has been recognized as an Emerging Leader by Americans For the Arts. Adam is also the President of Mission Paradox, a marketing coaching organization devoted to connecting art and audience. He has an undergraduate degree in Marketing from Eastern Illinois University, plus a law degree and a Master's Degree in Human Resources from the University of Illinois.